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Los Angeles Times Special Section: INVESTIGATING THE
PRESIDENT | CLINTON'S RESPONSE

Excerpts From White House Response to Starr Report

September 12, 1998

This document is intended to be a preliminary response to the Referral submitted by the Office of Independent Counsel to The Congress. Because we were denied the opportunity to review the content, nature or specifics of the allegations made against the President by the Office of Independent Counsel (OIC), we do not pretend to offer a point-by-point refutation of those allegations, or a comprehensive defense of the President.

We commend the House of Representatives for the extraordinary steps it has taken to safeguard the secrecy of the OIC's allegations. Unfortunately, its efforts were thwarted by unnamed sources familiar with the details of the OIC's allegations--sources that could only come from the OIC itself--who saw fit to leak elements of the allegations to the news media.

Based on these illegal leaks, as well as our knowledge of the President's testimony, we offer this document as a summary outline of his side of the case. We will provide you with a specific rebuttal as soon as we have had a chance to review the materials that the OIC has already transmitted to you.

The simple reality of this situation is that the House is being confronted with evidence of a man's efforts to keep an inappropriate relationship private. A personal failure that the President has acknowledged was wrong, for which he apologized, and for which he accepts complete responsibility. A personal failure for which the President has sought forgiveness from members of his family, members of the Cabinet, Members of Congress, and the American people. Such a personal failing does not, however, constitute "treason, bribery and high crimes and misdemeanors" that would justify the impeachment of the President of the United States.

The President himself has described his conduct as wrong. But no amount of gratuitous details about the President's relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, no matter how salacious, can alter the fact that:

1) The President did not commit perjury;

2) The President did not obstruct justice;

3) The President did not tamper with witnesses; and

4) The President did not abuse the power of his office.

Impeachment is a matter of incomparable gravity. Even to discuss it is to discuss overturning the electoral will of the people. For this reason, the Framers made clear, and scholars have long agreed, that the power should be exercised only in the event of such grave harms to the state as "serious assaults on the integrity of the processes of government," or "such crimes as would so stain a president as to make his continuance in office dangerous to public order." We do not believe the OIC can identify any conduct remotely approaching this standard. Instead, from press reports, if true, it appears that the OIC has dangerously overreached to describe in the most dramatic of terms conduct that not only is not criminal but is actually proper and lawful. . . .

Impeachment must therefore be approached with the utmost solemnity. The process must focus on public acts, performed in the President's public capacity, and affecting the public interest. Cognizant of the enormous harm that must follow the bare suggestion of formal impeachment processes, the House should pursue an impeachment inquiry if and only if there is credible evidence of actions constituting fundamental injuries to the governmental process. Indeed, the Committee should consider and approve articles of impeachment only for such acts as have, in its judgment, so seriously threatened the integrity of governmental processes as to have made the President's continuation in office a threat to the public order. Impropriety falling short of that high standard does not meet the constitutional measure. It must be left to the court of public opinion and the judgment of history.

President Has Cooperated With Probe

The Monica Lewinsky investigation is the most recent phase of an amorphous, languorous, expensive, and seemingly interminable investigation into the affairs of a small Arkansas real estate firm, Whitewater Development Company, Inc. In January, 1994, Attorney General Reno made an administrative appointment (the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 having expired) of Robert B. Fiske, Jr., to investigate the relationship of the President and Mrs. Clinton to Whitewater, Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan Association, and Capital Management Services. After the reenactment of the Ethics in Government Act, the Special Division for the Purpose of Appointing Independent Counsels of the Court of Appeals appointed Kenneth W. Starr, a former high official in two Republican administrations, to replace Mr. Fiske on August 5, 1994, and gave him a generally similar grant of investigatory jurisdiction.

in private, much less in public.

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